Magazine article Russian Life

Agitprop Trumps Counterespionage: British Rock Invasion Gets Rolled

Magazine article Russian Life

Agitprop Trumps Counterespionage: British Rock Invasion Gets Rolled

Article excerpt

The spy segment which aired on RTR Russian Television on Sunday January 22, is being seriously doubted. For that matter, the government-run Russian Information Agency's headline, "FSB detains a group of British spies," has not cleared the matter up. As of press time, no foreign spies have in fact been detained.

The name of the only person so far arrested--a Russian, by the way--is being withheld, while the names of those not arrested (the British citizens) have been proclaimed. This violation of the canons of espionage proves only one thing: the last thing this scandal is about is spying.


There is an unspoken iron rule of charging foreign spies with espionage. While military attaches and intelligence officers may work in embassies under rather transparent cover, it is not enough to simply know that they are carrying out espionage. One has to have concrete proof of their spying activities. Like arresting them red-handed. In order to suck the guilty government into a loud international scandal, you ideally capture two citizens: one of your own and the foreign national. Preferably while they are in the act of exchanging documents, money, etc. And of course the documents in this case should be top secret.

But British intelligence, one of the world's strongest spy services, is a tough nut to crack with these methods. First, the British never meet with their agents on the agents' native soil. Instead, they set up meetings in third countries. That is how the British worked with the most famous of their agents in the 1990s, Platon Obukhov, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs functionary. They met with him in the Baltic states.

The English arrange the transfer of information in the same way (without direct contact between spies): Platon Obukhov connected with MI6 from a trolleybus. While riding past the British Embassy, he used a radio transmitter to send them information.

If we accept on faith the story of the stone as demonstrated on RTR, then it seems as if the British have held true to their rules. Counterintelligence agents of the FSB did not succeed in arresting the Brits while they were meeting with their agent, since there were no such meetings. …

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